Epiphany or Old Christmas is January 6th. The dramatic scripture readings and the theme are a wonderful opportunity to do something a little different and make this feast day special.      


Lisa Brown is the Director of Children’s Ministry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, PA.

She gives us some practical suggestions in her article, “Celebrating Epiphany at Church: 5 Fresh Ideas.”



      It’s only 10 days away, but you still have time! Christmas Eve is a fantastic opportunity to engage people in the midst of worship. How do you create a unique service for your church year after year while remaining true to tradition? How can you connect in a fresh way with long-time parishioners while also reaching out to newcomers?    


Check out Deanna Kotrla’s article, “23 Creative Ideas For Your Christmas Eve Service.”



      Did you ever wonder what happened to Kodak? Once a pioneer and leader in cameras and photography, now the company is kaput. How can something so successful and so popular falter?

We know now that the corporation did not respond appropriately to the swift changes in our technological culture. What about the Church? Scholars say what is key for us in ‘churchland’ is understanding the times and effectively adapting.

Read Karina Kreminski’s article, “This Killed Kodak and It's Coming to your Church.”


      Are you a Lay Reader looking for an idea for your Advent or Christmas homily? Or perhaps you are a Deacon or Priest seeking a fresh approach to your seasonal sermons? Maybe you are a grandparent wanting to find the perfect activity to share with visiting children? Or do you just need a new holiday devotional?

Check out the worship and spirituality website of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.


      Many of us struggle to find the appropriate words to use to engage people in conversations about faith. We know we are called to encourage 'seekers' in their spiritual quest to know God, to become disciples of Christ, but how do we talk about Christianity without seeming to be pushy or disrespectful? One-on-one mentoring is an effective way to nurture new disciples. Here's an article by Bill Tenny-Brittian with suggestions for asking questions and offering encouragement to help the person explore faith in their own terms.  Read, "The Day-To-Day Mentor."

For more articles and our own Diocesan stories/photos, see Facebook: Parish Vitality Coordinator – Diocese of NS & PEI.



      There’s something about the holiday season that often stirs people’s hearts – emotionally and spiritually. Instead of stopping your group studies, why not keep them going and shift to focus on Christmas-related topics? Many people are without family this holiday season and are not feeling “all cheery and bright.” Small groups are a way to minister to people and provide an opportunity for folks to discover the God who loves and cares for them. The God who sent his Son to be one of us. Emmanuel.

     Here’s an article from author, Peri Gilbert, with some practical tips on hosting effective small group initiatives during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

“I’m Dreaming of a … Small Group”


      Don’t panic now, but the season of Advent is only 17 days away!

Are you looking for a theme or some resources to make this special time different this year?

Check out “Advent Conspiracy,” a global movement of people and churches resisting the cultural Christmas narrative of consumption by choosing a revolutionary Christmas through Worshipping Fully, Spending Less, Giving More and Loving All. Their website features church free resources like sermon outlines, teaching videos, a full curriculum family guide, Sunday school lessons and MORE!   


Visit:  Advent Conspiracy


      The definition of “church” is getting fuzzy these days.

Expectations and perceptions of what church should be are not clear for many of us, especially for those who are not active in a Christian faith community.  Lutheran minister, The Rev. Erik Parker, ‘The Millennial Pastor’, says seekers today are looking for a church that is outward focused and united by a common belief in something or someone bigger than us.


For more food for thought on what is ‘church’, read Parker’s article called, “Why People are Looking for “Church” in Places Other Than Church.”


      Traditionally for the church Sunday is the day. However, for more and more people fitting corporate worship in the Sunday morning time-slot is getting harder and harder. Ministry leaders can complain about this new reality, or we can discover fresh ways to connect people in worship at other times during the week.


Congregational Consulting Group author Sarai Rice writes about this shift in her article, “Sunday May Be Sacred, But Church Is Not.”



      There are scores of ideas out there on how to cultivate a vital and growing church, but the best one, by far, uses small group discovery programs.  Adult faith formation series, hosted regularly in small gatherings work for the following reasons:

  1. They build relationships within the church
  2. Participants are invited to actively explore the scriptures, Christian spiritual disciplines, etc., in a fresh and deep way.
  3. Pastoral care and prayer can take place within the group by other lay members (without the clergy having to do it).
  4. Ideally, participants are encouraged to ask difficult questions, wrestle with Bible teaching, and all without judgement or pressure.   


Duke University’s Alban Institute published an inspiring article by author and minister, Bruce Epperly, called, “Encouraging Lay Theology.”

 Adult faith formation series, hosted regularly in small gatherings work for the following reasons:

  1. They build relationships within the church
  2. Participants are invited to actively explore the scriptures, Christian spiritual disciplines, etc., in a fresh and deep way.
  3. Pastoral care and prayer can take place within the group by other lay members (without the clergy having to do it).
  4. Ideally, participants are encouraged to ask difficult questions, wrestle with Bible teaching, and all without judgement or pressure.   


Duke University’s Alban Institute published an inspiring article by author and minister, Bruce Epperly, called, “Encouraging Lay Theology.”


      Special event Sundays can be great ways to build bridges with the wider community and provide an opportunity for creative worship. Veterans Week is Nov. 5 to Nov. 11, this year and it is reported that attendance and interest by the general population on Remembrance Day is increasing. Churches can offer sacred places, spaces and rites to help our citizens connect the Holy with this solemn occasion.  Here are some ideas for resources to use on “Remembrance Sunday” (Nov. 6) and at other special times during the week. If you are going to host a special worship service or event, be sure to PROMOTE it far and wide. 

Candlelight Tribute Ceremony – Veterans Affairs Canada

A Guide to Remembrance Services – Veterans Affairs Canada

Ceremony Music (downloadable) – Royal Canadian Legion

Canadian War Museum – Online Resources


      Christian approaches to leadership can be quite different from other forms of leadership, like business and politics.Ultimately, it is about reaching our potential for God and empowering others. Clearly, leadership in churches is not about us!  


Jane Overstreet’s examined the leadership differences she discovered between Saul and David in the Old Testament. Check out her article called “Six Key Traits of "Unleaders"



      Recruiting people to be a part of a ministry team is different today.

Gone are the days of brow-beating people into taking on church roles they don’t enjoy, or of asking them to take a ministry position for life. Many of our parishioners may be interested in being a part of the parish team, but the approach and expectations need to be tempered for the culture in which we live. How can we enlist people to be a part of a rewarding experience in mission and ministry without turning them off?


Methodist church leader and author Jake McGlothin writes about how ministry leadership should be challenging, but it also must be satisfying. His article is, “Volunteer-Savvy Leadership.”


      It’s been said that, “Ministry would be so easy if it wasn’t for the people.”

The saying is a little humorous, but also true. There is no way to cookie-cutter create the perfect lay (or clergy) minister. We have the ones we have in our congregations. Sometimes I think we overlook some potentially fine leaders because they seem not to fit exactly into our expectations of church. How can we view leadership development  through God’s eyes and help raise up a whole variety of ministers with their unique gifting?


Nancy Ortberg explores how Jesus identified leaders in the Gospels in her article entitled, “The Odd Teamwork of Jesus.” She explains that, “Discipleship, not behavior modification, is our call as leaders of teams.”


      It’s a catch-22 situation. There’s not enough time and it is obvious you need more help. And, it takes time to find and train more able ministers. Perhaps you feel stuck, are exhausted, and sense your efforts are ineffective. There’s an Old Testament story that can offer some insight about how to clarify our ministry priorities.


Check out church leader, Lance Witt’s article, “Work Smarter, Not Harder.”


      It’s relatively easy and effective – refreshment time after worship. Many of our churches host a coffee and social hour after Sunday service. This is a time for building relationships and helping newcomers to belong. Although it sounds simple there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure guests are truly welcomed.  


Episcopal Church researcher, Dr. Kirk Hadaway, says it is all about being intentional with visitors. Read his short article, “Is Your Coffee Hour Chaotic Enough?” to learn more.


      We all have a story to tell. Anglicans sometimes struggle to talk openly about their Christian journey, but when we do it can be incredibly inspiring. There’s a growing initiative within Texas whereby Episcopalians have found a respectful, fun, and effective way to do this. It is called “Sharing Faith dinners.”  Like the name suggests, it involves food and friendship.


Read more about this in ECF Vital Practices article by Luke Blount and Laura Shaver, entitled “Sharing Faith Dinners.”


      The first Christians in the Book of Acts and New Testament letters have so much to teach us about church growth. Every time I read these accounts of all the fledgling Christian communities in the first Century I am comforted and inspired. Comforted to read that they didn’t get church life perfectly all the time. Sometimes it is just plain messy. More often than not I am encouraged by the work of the Holy Spirit and the faithfulness of ordinary men and women to spread the Gospel and grow the church.

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, as well as a church consultant. He names some basic principles from a leading early church evangelist, Saint Paul, and what he did during his first missionary journey.

The article is, “5 Church Growth Essentials from the Apostle Paul.”,%202016

For more articles and our own Diocesan stories/photos, see Facebook: Parish Vitality Coordinator – Diocese of NS & PEI.


     Every congregation says they are “friendly", but are we really?

It is said that ‘genuine friendships are becoming more rare – and thus, of greater perceived value – than any other aspect of modern church life.’ National Back-To-Church Sunday is Sept. 18th so it’s a great time to step up the ministry of hospitality. We all have it in us - the ability to grow friendships - and sometimes we need some helpful hints to draw us out of our shell.

Author Karl Vaters shares some insight on this in his article, “4 Steps to a Friendlier Church (The G.I.F.T. Plan).”,%202016


     September 18th. is national Back-To-Church Sunday.

Posters, signs and newspaper ads are great, but personal invitation is the most effective way to invite guests to join us for a church event. Researcher Dr. Thom Rainer says his studies show that most people come to church because of a personal invitation, and that 7 out of 10 unchurched people have never been invited to church in their whole lives.

Michael Lukaszewski is the Founder and CEO of Church Fuel, a youth minister, church planter, senior pastor and church consultant. Read his article, “7 Ways to Get More People to Come to Church.”


      No one enjoys conflict, but I heard someone say once that we should “never waste a crisis.”

Congregational conflict can cripple healthy church life or it can provide an opportunity for leadership and parishioners to grow to a new level of Christianity maturity. We wonder though, “If conflict is so helpful, why do many people work so hard to avoid it?” Explore why people avoid conflict and what are the helpful approaches in these turbulent times in Rev. Dr. Joyce Mercer’s article, “6 Ways to Keep Congregational Conflicts Constructive.”

      Summertime is a perfect season to dream, discern and plan.
If you are hoping to increase ministry capacity and try some new things this autumn, your church’s team may need to be re-cast. What do lay leaders on a ministry team need? How can you prepare for success? Author Jill Fox says, “The best leaders share responsibilities and help make their team members’ jobs clear, relevant, and fun.” Check out the Lewis Centre for Church Leadership’s article, “Ten Hints for Leading Volunteers.”


      We can’t be everything for everyone all the time!

Christians striving to be authentic as church always highly value relationships. We model this upon Jesus’ selflessness. If we look at the Gospels closely, we’ll also notice Jesus invested in relationships in a variety of ways. Friendships within the Faith Family may be categorized into four different groups. Author Mandy Smith says most relationships will fall somewhere on the scale between “I’m here for you” and “You’re here for me.” Read her article, “I'm Here for You . . . Kinda”  to learn about this spectrum of relationship investment.


      Greek historian, biographer, and essayist Plutarch said, ``What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.``
Church leaders (both lay and ordained) can lead in their congregations more effectively when they are emotionally and personally in a healthy place. There are a number of great books to help to explore, heal and transform the inward life. Here are a few more for your summer reading list:
ü  ``Emotionally Healthy Spirituality`` - by Peter Scazzero.
The subtitle states, `` It is impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.``  Here is what most people do: Avoid conflict in the name of Christianity; Ignore anger, sadness, and fear; Use God to run from God; and Live without boundaries. In this best-selling book Scazzero outlines the signs of emotionally unhealthy spirituality and seven ways to break through to the revolutionary life Christ meant for you. (There`s a section on contemplative spirituality, the daily office and how to develop a rule of life.)
ü  ``Changes That Heal: How to Understand the Past to Ensure a Healthier Future`` - by Dr. Henry Cloud.
To become mature image-bearers of God, says Cloud, we must learn to do four things: - Bend to others - Set healthy personal boundaries - Accept both the good and bad in life - Develop the traits of adulthood. With solid scriptural insights, this book helps readers form healthy relationships with themselves, others, and God - relationships that will bring new richness and purpose to life. (Dr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist.)
ü  Here`s an article by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, related to their best-seller book called ``Boundaries.`` The article is called, `` What Do You Mean “Boundaries”?``  Define your intangible boundaries and recognize them as an ever present reality that can increase your love and save your life. In reality, these boundaries define your soul, and they help you to guard it and maintain it (see Proverbs 4:23).


Leadership is key in churches that are striving to do ministry in a vital, mission-minded way. Lay leadership AND Clergy leadership.

Here are a couple of books to consider for your summer reading list.


ü  ``The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable`` - by Patrick M. Lencioni

Don`t let the negative title scare you. This is a very positive book about the effectiveness of teamwork. (Hint: Trust is at the centre of it all.) This is particularly important for Parish Councils, Executive Committees, etc.


ü  `` Courageous Leadership: Field-tested strategy for the 360 Leader`` - by Bill Hybels

One of the top church leaders of our time, Hybels says too much is at stake for you not to maximize your spiritual gift of leadership. Unpack the tools, tasks, and challenges of your calling. You'll discover the power of vision and how to turn it into action.


ü  Here`s an article on Stephen Covey`s book, ``The 3rd Alternative.`` (He wrote the best-seller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”) Its premise is that leaders who are able to cultivate a mindset that can entertain wildly divergent ideas not only encounter less conflict, but also come up with more inspired answers.


      “If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Leaders’ willingness for a fresh perspective can make all the difference in our Parishes as we strive to be vital and mission-oriented in ministry. A healthy, optimistic and open attitude can envision possibilities, while a negative, closed attitude sees only the status quo and the ‘glass half empty.’ Author, Dr. Peter Coutts says, “The most effective way to help people change their attitudes is by helping people reflect on and revise the beliefs at the center of an attitude.”    
Read the Alban Institute article below called, “Encouraging Attitude Change in the Congregation.”


      Most of the churches in our Diocese would be categorized as small. 

These congregations typically have under 100 weekly worshippers, on average. There are two types of small churches: a “family-size” church, with fewer than 50 active parishioners, and “pastoral-size” church with approximately 50 to 100 congregants. Although fewer in number than "program" or "corporate" churches, these churches have unique opportunities to build community and serve in mission.   


Read the article below called, The strength and beauty of small churches,” written by Lisa G. Fischbeck.


      It’s been said that the church is both gathered and scattered.

We tend to do the gathering bit quite well in our local congregations. The scattering and discovering God at work in the neighbourhood part is more challenging for us. We hear remarks that reinforce this inward-looking perspective, like “We don’t have enough people to take this risk. We won’t survive.” Or “We have to get our house in order first.” Meanwhile the Spirit is in the community calling us outward.   


Read the article below called,, “Roadblocks to God’s Future,” written by Alan J. Roxburgh.

      Things grow in the summer. Even congregations.
It won’t be long and we’ll be picking one of the first fruits of the season, strawberries. Summer can be an opportunity for organic growth in our parishes, if leaders cultivate some new approaches. Not everyone goes away over July and August. How can we emphasize our commitment to worship and be ‘spiritually fruitful’? After all, God does not take a summer vacation from us! 
Read Ann A. Michel’s article called, “Avoiding a Summer Drop in Worship Attendance.”

      Father’s Day, June 19th – Another opportunity to gather people together.
We’ve got Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day. How about celebrating the Christian dads in your community? It’s not easy being a parent these days, especially one who strives to have an active faith. Churches can encourage and support families during these special days.  
To help congregations who want to invite fathers to worship this Father's Day, the Church of England has published (visit the link below):
·         Updated resources including sample Service of the Word, prayers and readings to use in church services and
·         Suggestions for services and events from around the Church.


      Summer small groups. What to do? Take a Sabbath break or do something special?

Table discussion feedback from last year’s Diocesan Synod gathering clearly named that Christian Formation and education are greatly needed. Church leaders (lay and ordained) may be wondering how to work on this and maintain small group momentum over the summer months. Here is an article from with some helpful suggestions.


Read Managing Editor, Amy Jackson’s piece called, “3 Ideas to Prepare Your Small-Group Ministry for Summer.” Before the summer months hit, make some plans for your small groups.


      What’s the buzz? Tell them what's a-happening.

Every congregation has strengths. Whether it be in musical talents, a unique location, culinary skills, festivities organizers or dramatic actors. Every church has been abundantly gifted by God and is called to use those strengths to build up the church. Often we need to promote ourselves more, tell others about it and create “buzz” in the neighbourhood.


Take a few minutes and review this article from The Alban Institute called, “Shine Your Light: How to Build Buzz and Reach Your Community.”


      Having money helps, but it’s not necessary. Actively participating in growth initiatives in our parishes does not mean you have to have a gigantic budget or a large team. Mission on a shoestring is possible. Author and Church leader Carey Nieuwhof wisely says, “Vision always precedes resources. If you’re waiting for people and money to show up so you can get on with your mission, you’ll wait forever.”


Take a few minutes and review this short article from Carey Nieuwhof, called “10 Church Growth Strategies That Cost Zero Dollars.”



      “People just aren’t committed like they used to be”

Winnipeg Lutheran minister, The Rev’d. Erik Parker explores why much of our effort to attract people back to church is not very effective, and how a cultural shift in terms of commitment is the reason. He says, “…I think it is because the core foundation that brings most church communities together is fundamentally at odds with what people who are looking for churches are seeking today.”


Here is a thought-provoking article from this Canadian millennial minister, called “Why Nothing Seems to Get People Back to Church – The Issue at the Core of Decline.”



       Mother’s Day can be one of the most highest attendance Sundays of the year, and it isn’t because of all the mothers there. It’s because of the non-church-going family members – the spouses, adult and young children, who come with mom! Yes, it is a ‘greeting card holiday’, but there is no doubting it is an important family day in all of our communities. Churches have great opportunities to engage newcomers on this special day, May 8th.  (It’s not too late to make plans!)


Here are a couple of links to Mother’s Day worship resources:


       Spring. Time to prepare the soil and get ready for planting. Many church leaders in our Diocese are seeking to sow seeds for growth this season. Duke University Professor, L. Gregory Jones says, “Transformative change, rooted in tradition and the preservation of wisdom, cultivates the adaptive work that is crucial to the ongoing vitality and growth of any organism, Christian institutions included.”


Here’s an article from Dr. Jones, senior strategist, theologian and former Dean of Duke Divinity School. It is called “Seven tips for cultivating traditioned innovation in leadership teams.”



       “Hard times in the Maritimes!”  An old familiar saying that acknowledged the challenges folks in these parts faced. Some might say that in some areas, this applies to the church. But what if we viewed our struggles in a different light? This reality could cause us to despair, or instead inspire us to approach this as an opportunity for “courageous discernment”. 


Here’s an article from the Alban Institute, called “Hard-Times Leadership.”


       The happy and holy season of Easter speaks of resurrection, new life and a fresh start.

For many parishes this is a time of reflecting on who they are as church and where God is calling them. As we pray in our Easter Vigil Collect (BAS, p. 329), “Renew your Church with the Spirit given to us in baptism…” Here is an article that may inspire you further, to consider being “spiritual entrepreneurs” as you seek to renew your approach to mission.



       Okay, it’s here. Holy Week is rolling along and typically one of the biggest attendance Sundays, Easter, is almost upon us. It’s been my experience that the small things can have the greatest impact on visitors and returning Anglicans.  Here is a brief article outlining some easy and inexpensive things to keep in mind for this wonderful opportunity to build relationships with new people. As the authors say, “Do all you can to keep this Easter from being a ‘one-morning stand.’ ”



       We are only a few days away from Holy Week and our thoughts turn to special worship. One hymn lyric says, “There is a longing…”   What is worship anyway? How do we invite and encourage people to engage in this corporate endeavour? And precisely why do we worship?   Check out this interesting article from the Lewis Center on Church Leadership: “Worship Game Changers” by Tom Bandy and Lucinda Holmes.



       From time to time I discover an article or website that inspires within me a fresh understanding of church ministry. Here is a link to an article called,“Next Generation Leaders," by Susan Beaumont​.  There are interesting variations between the generations as we approach the 'ministry of all the baptized'. Younger people long to share their gifts and serve, but they have different expectations about what that looks like.



       From time to time I discover an article or website that inspires within me a fresh understanding of church ministry. Here is a link to an article called, “7 Ways To Grow Church Attendance By Increasing Engagement,” by Carey Nieuwhof. I’m not so keen on the title, because our focus should be on being missional, not just getting more people to sit in pews on Sunday. However, the teaching tips do offer some good ideas on how to move folks from being simply spectators to more active participants in the local church. It helps describe discipleship.



       From time to time I discover an article or website that inspires within me a fresh understanding of church ministry. Here is a link to an Anglican Journal article entitled “The Four Kinds of Leaders We Need.” Author John Bowen names them as: the traditional pastor, the palliative care leader, the turnaround leader and the pioneer leader. Lay leaders should be interested in this too, as they seek to find direction for their parish’s ministry and priorities, and especially if they are looking for a new rector.



       From time to time I discover an article or website that inspires within me a fresh understanding of church ministry. Here is a link to an interview with The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, a bishop from Texas entitled, “Imagining the Church of the Future.”  He talks about giving leaders (lay and clergy) space to be creative, innovative and adaptable.   Bishop Doyle says culturally relevant missional thinking is required and that we can take a lesson from Apple. READ ON:   


    print the page

Click to view more articles in Parish Vitality Coordinator